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Genesis 6

Chapter 6

vs. 1-4: Concerning the Nephilim, see also notes on 2nd Samuel 21:15.

Genesis 6:2 says that the sons of God (See Job 1:6) saw that the daughters of men were fair and that they took wives from among them.  The writer implies that this phenomenon was evil by immediately following v. 2 with God’s declaration that he would destroy the earth in 120 years (v. 3).  Verse 4 then says that the wives of these “sons of God” bore children to them and that these children “were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.”  The most straightforward and obvious reading of this is that angels took physical form, had sex with human women, and that the product of these unions was a race of humans with supernatural strength and ability.  One might argue that these “sons of God” were human followers of God, but I do not believe this for several reasons.

If these unions had been between human men and women, why would their offspring be described as superhumans, as literal giants?

The act of marrying these women is condemned.  It seems like doing something like that would disqualify one from being a son of God unless he belonged to a group where one could be evil and yet still nominally referred to as a “son of God” (i.e. an angel, fallen or otherwise).

Some might argue that since the wrath of God is against humans (rather than fallen angels) in Genesis 6, the sons of God must have been human, but I would answer such an argument by saying that Genesis 6 only tells the story of God’s condemnation and punishment of humanity, not of the fallen angels.  The fallen angels are mentioned in Genesis 6 only because they had a part in the story of humanity’s corruption, which ultimately led God to send the flood.  The story of the punishment of the fallen angels could be told (by those who know it) but it is not the subject of Genesis 6.

Genesis 6:4 also says that these Nephilim were on the earth both before the flood of Noah and afterward “when the sons of God went into the daughters of men.”  So, I believe that both before the flood and afterward, fallen angels slept with human women and produced these extraordinarily gifted children.  Perhaps their supernatural genes were then passed on to the descendants of these gifted children to create whole families of remarkable people such as the sons of Anak (the Anakim).  I wonder if the stories in mythology of “gods” sleeping with mortal women and producing such extraordinary children as Hercules are simply distorted memories of a reality that Genesis 6 accurately preserves.

Here is the timeline of the flood based on the Hebrew calendar that I have constructed below. [1]

1. Tishri (30 days)

2. Cheshvan (29 days)

3. Kislev (30 days)

4. Tevet (29 days)

5. Shevat (30 days)

6. Adar (29 days)

7. Nissan (30 days)

8. Iyar (29 days)

9. Sivan (30 days)

10. Tammuz (29 days)

11. Av (30 days)

12. Elul (29 days)

(Cheshvan 10) 10th day of the 2nd month: God commands Noah to gather the animals and his family onto the ark.

7 days pass (7:10).

(Cheshvan 17) 17th day of the 2nd month (7:11):  the flood begins.

40 days and 40 nights pass (7:17):  The waters continue to grow by means of rain and gushing springs; eventually the flood covers even the highest mountains.

(Kislev 28) [2] 41st day after the flood began:  God stopped the rain, closed the gushing springs, and sent a drying wind over the earth (8:1).

(Nissan 17) 17th day of the 7th month[3] (147 days after the flood began[4]): the waters have decreased enough to allow the ark to come to rest on the top of Mount Ararat.

(Tammuz 1) 1st day of the 10th month[5] (72 days after Nissan 17; 219 days after the flood began):  the tops of other mountains can be seen from the ark.

(Av 11)  11th day of the 11th month (40 days[6] after Tammuz 1; 259 days after the flood began):  Noah sends out a raven, but it finds no dry land and flies to and from the ark until the waters dry up (8:7).

(Av 18) 7 days later:  Noah sends out a dove, but the dove returns because the waters still cover all the land[7] (8:8-9)

(Av 25)  Another 7 days later:  Noah sends the dove out again, and this time it returns with a fresh olive leaf in its mouth (8:10).

(Elul 2)  2nd day of the 12th month (Still another 7 days later):  Noah sends the dove out a third time, but this time it did not return, presumably because it settled on land somewhere (8:12).

(Tishri 1) 1st day of the 1st month of the new year (88 days after Tammuz 1; 307 days after the flood began):  “the surface of the ground was dry[8]” (8:13).

(Cheshvan 27) 27th day of the 2nd month  (57 days after Tishri 1; 364 days after the flood began):  the earth “was dried,” and God commanded Noah to  come out of the ark with the animals (8:14-17).


[1] Because the author of the story is Hebrew, I assume that these are Hebrew months even though the “Hebrews” as such did not exist at the time of the flood.  This presents a problem, however, in that the Hebrews have two “first” months: Nissan, which begins the civil year, and Tishri (seven months after Nissan), which begins the agricultural year.  Since Tishri is when a new year is added, I am assuming that this is the starting point, which makes the “second” month “Cheshvan.”  Anyway, even if I am wrong about the specific months, the general count of days should be close. I know of no way to determine whether or not the flood took place in a leap year, so I am going to assume that it did not.

[2] Assuming Cheshvan had 30 days.

[3] 8:4.

[4] 8:3 says that for 150 days the waters still covered everything in spite of their decreasing levels.  I am assuming that this 147 days is synonymous with the 150 days.  (I would account for the difference of three days by citing my inexperience with counting dates on the Hebrew calendar, or by seeing the 150 as a rounded up number.

[5] 8:5.

[6] 8:6.

[7] Even though the tops of mountains could be seen by this point, one could still honestly (if not literally) say that water covered the land.  It covered the land for all practical purposes so that the dove found no satisfactory perch for itself beyond the ark.

[8] There must have been relative levels of dryness.  Compare this with 8:14-17.

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5 Responses to “Genesis 6”

  1. Taylor said

    Hi Larry,

    Thank you for sharing your notes! This passage is particularly interesting to me. Have you looked at any of the commentaries by the church fathers on this passage? They vary. Some of them, such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian, support your position, but some others, most notably Augustine and John Cassian, believe that the ‘Sons of God’ were the children of the line of Seth, and the ‘sons of men’ were the children of the line of Cain. The two lines had not intermarried until the time described in this passage, according to Cassian. Augustine doesn’t go into it in great detail in the City of God, but John Cassian has a fascinating commentary on this in his Conferences, which you can find here: .

    ~ Taylor C.

    This is the meat of the commentary:

    “After the death of righteous Abel, in order that the whole human race might not spring from a wicked fratricide, Seth was born in the place of his brother who was slain, to take the place of his brother not only as regards posterity, but also as regards justice and goodness. And his offspring, following the example of their father’s goodness, always remained separate from intercourse with and the society of their kindred descended from the wicked Cain, as the difference of the genealogy very clearly tells us, where it says: “Adam begat Seth, Seth begat Enos, Enos begat Cainan, but Cainan begat Mahalaleel, but Mahalaleel begat Jared, Jared begat Enoch, Enoch begat Methuselah, Methuselah begat Lamech, Lamech begat Noah.”15521552 Gen. v. 4–30. And the genealogy of Cain is given separately as follows: “Cain begat Enoch, Enoch begat Cainan, Cainan begat Mahalaleel, Mahalaleel begat Methuselah, Methuselah begat Lamech, Lamech begat Jabal and Jubal.”15531553 Gen. iv. 17–21. And so the line which sprang from the seed of righteous Seth always mixed with its own kith and kin, and continued for a long while in the holiness of its fathers and ancestors, untouched by the blasphemies and the wickedness of an evil offspring, which had implanted in it a seed of sin as it were transmitted by its ancestors. As long then as there continued that separation of the lines between them, the seed of Seth, as it sprang from an excellent root, was by reason of its sanctity termed “angels of God,” or as some copies have it “sons of God;” and on the contrary the others by reason of their own and their fathers’ wickedness and their earthly deeds were termed “children of men.” Though then there was up to this time that holy and salutary separation between them, yet after this the sons of Seth who were the sons of God saw the daughters of those who were born of the line of Cain, and inflamed with the desire for their beauty took to themselves from them wives who taught their husbands the wickedness of their fathers, and at once led them astray from their innate holiness and the single-mindedness of their forefathers. To whom this saying applies with sufficient accuracy: “I have said: Ye are Gods, and ye are all the children of the Most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes;” who fell away from that true study of natural philosophy, handed down to them by their ancestors, which the first man who forthwith traced out the study of all nature, could clearly attain to, and transmit to his descendants on sure grounds, inasmuch as he had seen the infancy of this world, while still as it were tender and throbbing and unorganized; and as there was in him not only such fulness of wisdom, but also the grace of prophecy given by the Divine inspiration, so that while he was still an untaught inhabitant of this world he gave names to all living creatures, and not only knew about the fury and poison of all kinds of beasts and serpents, but also distinguished between the virtues of plants and trees and the natures of stones, and the changes of seasons of which he had as yet no experience, so that he could well say: “The Lord hath given me the true knowledge of the things that are, to know the disposition of the whole world, and the virtues of the elements, the beginning and the ending and the midst of times, the alterations of their courses and the changes of their seasons, the revolutions of the year and the disposition of the stars, the natures of living creatures and the rage of wild beasts, the force of winds, and the reasonings of men, the diversities of plants and the virtues of roots, and all such things as are hid and open I have learnt.” This knowledge then of all nature the seed of Seth received through successive generations, handed down from the fathers, so long as it remained separate from the wicked line, and as it had received it in holiness, so it made use of it to promote the glory of God and the needs of everyday life.”

  2. Taylor said

    The link is – http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf211.iv.iv.ix.xxi.html

  3. lehunt said

    I have only read Augustine’s City of God, and I really do not understand why he takes the position he does. Throughout the whole work, he says that the demons have often masqueraded as pagan gods while actively taking part in our history, yet he is unwilling to believe that they would have slept with mortal women. He seems to assume the conclusion, and then work backwards to prove it. His best argument – that giants are sometimes born of normal mortal parents – (Book 15:23) is still quite weak, I think. Such children are not the rule (and are often riddled with physical weakness), whereas the implication of Genesis is that all of these children were not only large but gifted with skill and power to be the heroes of old because they were the children of “the sons of God.”

    Incidentally, have you read anything linking this to Paul’s strange statement about women needing head coverings “because of the angels” (1 Corinthians 11:10)?

    I would really be interested in reading your paper when you are done.

  4. […] April 30, 2010 at 8:23 am eHi Larry, […]

  5. […] April 30, 2010 at 8:23 am eHi Larry, […]

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